Seven months after Lionsgate’s acquisition of Starz was completed, the effects of the merger are starting to reach the screen, with Starz today announcing the first series order to a show from Lionsgate TV, The Rook.
It’s the first of many to come. “We’ve got an exciting slate of stuff with Lionsgate in development,” Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht said during the premium channel’s TCA executive session. “There will be more to come in close partnership with Lionsgate, which we will announce in the months ahead.”
Albrecht hailed the Lionsgate-Starz union as something that “made us even more attractive for talent, and of course we’re in the business of attracting talent.”
Albrecht was asked about Starz’s long-term plans for the breakout big-budget new drama series American Gods — already renewed for a second season — which is based on the novel by Neil Gaiman: Is it envisioned as an ongoing series, or is there an endgame planned for it?
“Like most of things we do, we are guided by people in charge of the creative vision, our partner here is FremantleMedia. The vision of Neil is the guiding light, and [exec producers] Bryan Fuller and Michael Green are translators of that vision. We are on board as long as it makes sense for Starz. I don’t see any end in sight, but it also is a difficult show to wrangle, we are trying to get it as soon as we can.”
Albrecht reiterated Starz’s “programming strategy of seeking diverse voices,” noting the network’s success serving underserved audiences with shows like drama Power, which Albrecht said was the second-most watched on premium cable last year behind HBO’s Game of Thrones and saw its ratings actually tick up week-to-week when it faced the season opener of GOT earlier this month.
Albrecht also touched on the distribution side of the business and the network’s position among OTT players like Netflix and Hulu. “I think we have the best of both worlds,” he said. “That’s not to say that we don’t’ have a lot of challenges out there, but we have a great wholesale business [despite] some rocky news in MVPD numbers.” Albrecht would not reveal what impact the introduction of skinny bundles has had on Starz’s subscriber numbers.